Francis Tom Temprosa
LLM Candidate & Clyde Alton DeWitt Fellow
The recent series of expressions to withdraw from the Rome Statute, including Burundi’s successful withdrawal,[i] is not surprising to legal scholars who have closely watched events unfolding before the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Prosecutions at the ICC have raised deeper questions about complementarity, and whether the ICC is biased in its selection of situations to investigate and individuals to indict.[ii] Under a neo-colonialist critique of the court, many African leaders and intellectuals have argued that the ICC is a Western imperialist attack especially on Africans.[iii]
Yet, the ICC has operated against a backdrop of non-ratification of signatures to the treaty and looming intentions to withdraw for many years now. In 2002, U.S. President George W. Bush notified UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan that the United States had “no legal obligations arising from its signature” made during Clinton’s time.[iv] Russia, a signatory to the Statute, announced in November 2016 that it will distance itself from its signature after the court criticized it for actions in Crimea. Russia reasoned that the ICC “failed to meet the expectations to become a truly independent, authoritative international tribunal.”[v]
But this recent spate of intentions to withdraw brings concerns about the legitimacy of the court to a whole new level. First, states parties to the treaty, not mere signatories to it, had initiated steps to dissociate from the entire enterprise that is the ICC.